Xperia phones from Sony are not like any other which is a good thing. It has a high 21:9 aspect ratio with a 4K display, and Sony has other priorities with its camera system too: it offers more manual controls so your photos and videos look exactly the way you want them to. The problem? These devices are some of the most expensive out there, and the latest Sony Xperia 1 IV (pronounced “One Mark Four”) goes on to an absurd asking price of $1,600, or £1,299 / €1,399 if you’re in the UK and Europe. are .
For that kind of money, this phone had better be foldable, or at least be metaphysically perfect in every way. But it’s neither. Major changes to the previous generation Xperia 1 IV include true optical zoom on a phone camera for the first time, plus standard upgrades such as a new Qualcomm Snapdragon processor and increased battery capacity. Little else has changed, leaving you scratching your head even more over the unreasonable price increase.
Sony has stuck with the same design as the past few phones, but it’s holding up. The Xperia line had flat bezels on the sides long before Apple and Samsung returned to the look, and the frosted glass back remains extremely stylish. The thin bezels on the top and bottom predate this phone a bit compared to other new handsets, but you might prefer that to notches or punch-hole selfie cameras.
Perhaps one of the main features that make this phone stand out is the headphone jack. Yes, it’s sad that this nifty 3.5mm jack has now been relegated to budget phones, but this is one of the few high-end phones to maintain it. The same goes for the microSD card slot. The US variant comes with 512GB of storage, while the UK/Europe model starts at 256GB, but both have a card slot so you can expand the space in the blink of an eye.
The screen is top notch. It has a 4K resolution, which is certainly overkill on the 6.67-inch AMOLED display, but it still looks beautiful. The colors are extremely true-to-life, rarely over- or under-saturated, and there is a lot of detail. The 120Hz refresh rate is the icing on the cake and makes any animation on the phone look buttery smooth. Next to the screen of the Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra you do not get as punchy colors, but that might be a good thing for color accuracy. The screen doesn’t get that bright either, but on sunny days it’s more than enough to see.
The unique, high 21:9 aspect ratio makes watching movies feel more cinematic, but it makes the phone rather clunky to use. You have to stretch your fingers quite a bit to reach the top of the screen, although there are is a one-handed mode to help with this.
The performance of the Xperia 1 IV, backed by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 8 Gen 1 chipset, is quite good. Both the screen and the back of the phone become uncomfortably warm when pressed with demanding games such as Genshin impact. But you’ll find few problems in day-to-day browsing, beyond Sony’s somewhat clunky software and especially when using features like split-screen mode. Equally inconvenient is the side-mounted fingerprint scanner. It regularly registered phantom touches and didn’t always accept a tap to unlock on the first try.
Fortunately, the battery life makes up for this. Despite a demanding 4K, 120Hz display, the 5,000mAh cell will comfortably last you a full day plus a little more on a single charge. You can top it up via the USB-C port or charge wirelessly, but you’ll need to bring your own 30-watt charging adapter and cable because Sony doesn’t have one either.
It’s the optic
The photography knowledge you need to get the most out of the Xperia 1 IV’s cameras goes beyond the simplicity you’d expect from a flagship smartphone. That’s largely the point – Sony expects you to want to tinker with camera settings rather than just pressing the shutter button (which you can still do).
There are three 12MP cameras here, a main lens with optical image stabilization (OIS), an ultra-wide-angle lens and a telephoto lens with OIS and true optical zoom. The latter feature is the big new addition this year. Like zooms made for DSLR and mirrorless cameras, this telephoto lens moves mechanically between 3.5x and 5.2x zoom, meaning you won’t get crappy digital zoom quality between those zoom levels like most other phones; you still get a sharp photo. However, it’s such a small window to play with that it might not matter much.